Why most training is impossible to evaluate?
16/03/2017 Training and Learning
A question that comes up regularly when I’m working with trainers, especially in organisations, is How to evaluate the courses they deliver and Why most training is impossible to evaluate?
The problem is, by the time they ask the question, it’s often too late. The courses are already written and running. They should have asked the question when they were designing the training.
The first issue is exactly what you want to evaluate.
I’ve seen many different evaluation forms and questionnaires used after a training event. Some of the questions they ask include things like:
- Was the trainer prepared/approachable/knowledgeable?
- Was everyone given a chance to contribute?
- Did the course meet your expectations?
- Did the course meet its objectives?
- What did you think of the venue/admin/food?
Actually, the only question which is worth asking is, “Was this training worth the time, effort and money invested in running it?”
None of the questions above really help you to answer that.
So what if the trainer was prepared, approachable and knowledgeable? Isn’t that the least you can expect? Does that mean the course was effective and worthwhile?
If the course met people’s expectations – what were they? Did they know what to expect? Were they correct in their expectations? Was that what the training was supposed to deliver?
I’ve seen courses where people were given only a very sketchy idea of what the course was about before they arrived. I honestly don’t know what expectations they would have had when they turned up.
Did the course meet its objectives? Well, this is getting close to being a useful question. But do the participants know what the objectives were? Does anyone know? Who determined the objectives? Who is qualified to give an answer to that?
Sometimes participants will be asked, “How will you apply what you have learned on this course? What difference will it make to you?”
Now that is a good question. That’s getting to the core of what training is about – making a difference to people’s behaviour, to their performance. It isn’t about making people clever or just giving them information, it’s about changing what they do.
Will the training make a difference? If the answer isn’t a clear “yes” then there’s a problem.
The difficulty is that, often, it isn’t clear what difference the training is supposed to make.
Ideally, training should arise from identifying specific needs. It should be designed for a reason (to meet those needs) and it should have very clear objectives.
At least some of these should be behavioural – by that, I mean they should describe what people will be doing differently after the training. Because that’s what you can see and that’s the point of the training in the first place.
This isn’t always easy to do. And, certainly, a lot of training happens on the assumption that there’s probably a need for it and that people will get something useful from it (although it may not be clear what that is).
But that makes evaluating the training almost impossible.
Because, if the objectives aren’t clearly spelled out and if you’re not clear what you’re going to be looking for after the training to make sure it’s been useful, then there’s no way you can evaluate it.
So the time to ask the question, “How will we evaluate the training?” is when you’re designing it, while you’re thinking about what it’s for and why it’s being designed.
Asking the question at that point will help you to decide whether you’re clear about the need for the training and it will help you to design it in the most effective way.
If you wait until after it’s up and running, it’s too late.
Guest blogger – Allan Matthews is an experienced Trainer and Coach. Whether you’re a business presenter, a conference speaker or a trainer, I’ll help you be more engaging and memorable and support you on Why most training is impossible to evaluate?– and get better results! Find out more about Allan Matthews